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For a very long time, successful salespeople had a very specific set of competencies. These sales skills served them well for decades and decades. But changes in society, technology, and the business environment required new sales competencies. And so, the stack of competencies grew.

In the last couple of decades, the world of business—and sales—has been racked by ever more disruptive change. Success in sales requires more—and greater—competencies.

And it requires that you, the salesperson, have the whole range of competencies.

Foundational Competencies

Salespeople have always had to ask for commitments.

They have always had to prospect for new business.

They used to have to overcome objections, which has transformed into a higher-level skill of resolving concerns and limiting risk.

Salespeople have always had to demonstrate the value of the goods, services, and solutions that sold, even though we no longer think of features and benefits alone.

They have always had to tell stories, to present.

Each of these skills is still necessary to succeed in sales. As sales grew more complex and more complicated, additional skills were necessary.

Second Level Skills

As we moved into selling solutions, the ability to diagnose, to understand a prospective business client’s needs, became critically important. Like the foundational skills, this skill is still critical and necessary.

As different solutions were sold, the ability to negotiate also became more and more important, especially as competing companies created very different levels value and different results.

Because this is true, it can be difficult to distinguish one solution—and one company—from the next. It became critical that the salesperson possess the ability to differentiate themselves and their offering.

As selling has become more complex, even the abilities to diagnose, differentiate, and negotiate aren’t enough. A still higher level of skills is required.

The New Consultative Salesperson

While all of these skills are still necessary to creating and winning opportunities, the new consultative salesperson requires additional competencies.

The primary competency for salespeople now is business acumen. None of the foundational skills or second level skills is valuable without business acumen. Of all of the skills and competencies required, business acumen reigns supreme. Business acumen is the new sales acumen.

Without business acumen, it is difficult to know how to help your clients produce better business outcomes. That’s the new game. It’s not product. It’s not features and benefits. It’s not solutions. It’s business outcomes.

Getting those business outcomes requires change. The consultative salesperson has to possess the ability to mange and lead change in their client’s organization, and in their own. The new consultative salesperson manages change.

Managing this change requires leadership skills. A salesperson may do a lot of the heavy lifting by themselves or with their small sales team, but the execution belongs to a team of people on in the salesperson’s company and in the client’s. The new consultative salesperson is a strategic orchestrator; they lead the change by leading the team.

Like no time before, when you sell it, you own it. You sell outcomes, and that means that you own those outcomes. Managing the outcomes is what new consultative salespeople do. They don’t own the transactions; their team does. But they own the outcomes, and they ensure that their clients get the benefit of their bargain by acting as part of their client’s team.

This is what is required of the new consultative salesperson.


What are the foundational skills that salespeople have always required?

What changes have required salespeople to need to acquire new skills?

What are the new skills that consultative salespeople need in order to succeed in sales?

What new skills do salespeople require to succeed for their clients?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 16, 2012

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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